Join this evening of discourse with Carrie Sandahl: in 2003, she conceptualized the verb “to crip” to explore the affinities between queer and progressive disability communities. She extrapolated the concept from the verb “to queer”, which emerged in the 1980s and 1990s to describe representational strategies, used in queer communities to make visible and destabilize heterosexual norms. She drew on the similarities and crucial differences between how crips and queers see and represent their experiences by analyzing the work of solo performance artists who identified as both. Since 2003, the use of “to crip” or “cripping” has taken on a life of its own in academic and activist circles. Sandahl returns the term’s origin story that ground it in the lived experience of queer and disabled people and that point to future directions in activism, the arts, and academia.

Carrie Sandahl is a Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Department of Disability and Human Development. She co-directs Chicago’s Bodies of Work, an organization that supports the development of disability art and culture. Her research and creative activity focus on disability identity in performance and film. Sandahl’s publications include a co-edited an anthology, Bodies in Commotion: Disability and Performance, which garnered the Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s award for Outstanding Book in Theatre Practice and Pedagogy (2006). Her collaboratively created documentary, Code of the Freaks, a critique of disability representations in cinema, premiered in 2020.

*The title for this talk nods to the theater artist and scholar David Ball, who in 1983, wrote the textbook, Backwards and Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays. Ball’s technique provides a set of tools to understand how a play works by studying its mechanics before creating meaning. Sandahl’s work focuses on how representational techniques of queering and cripping work together to create new meaning about the lived experience of disability and queerness.

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